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The Dissolution & Demise Of The Union Between Somalia And Somaliland
Somalia, a war zone of death, destruction, and rampant violence and more at war with itself than with the outside world, doesn't yet seem to grasp its inherent inability to get its' house in order and cease its vicious fratricidal war. A deadly combination of subtle ethnic rivalry and overzealous leadership with a greed of grand scale fanned the flames of unbridled hatred and factional fighting that shattered the nation into dozen fiefdoms preyed on by brutal warlords. The ensuing anarchy and chaos sent Somalia into the intensive-care hallways, instantly transforming the country into dysfunctional and politically vegetative state beyond their capacity to deal with. During my trip into Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, I met many destitute and displaced Somalis whose lives were ruined by a senseless civil war induced by clan aspirations gone awry. With notable exception of Somaliland in the north, most Somalis in the south are now stranded in their own stateless situation, without any semblance of peace and order. Having met both shapers and shakers alike on both sides of the aisle, I offer no panacea prescription to those who desperately seek one and I see no quick end to a lingering paralysis & polarization.
Until recently, The Somalia we grew familiar with is the creation of a voluntary merging of British Somaliland in the north who were granted their independence on June 26th, 1960 and Italian Somalia who gained their independence on July 1st of the same year. the union of the two regions (north & south), essentially based on equal partnership of sharing power and resources, was intended to champion bringing home the rest of the Somali-inhabited territories still under foreign rule. Few years into the marriage, the troubled relationship rapidly deteriorated and led to an absolute disenchantment with the arrangement by the north. imbued with immense sense of betrayal and a feeling of being kept-out of both the ruling and sharing process, many northerners have loudly wondered if their grievances could ever be addressed. A 1969 military coup staged by the south to acquire a free rein of the union exacerbated the situation and further reinforced the northern apprehensions for being dubbed because of their naive convictions in pan-Somalism, not evidently shared by their southern counterparts.
Territorial disputes historically soured Somalia’s relations with its' neighboring countries of mainly Ethiopia and Kenya. In his 1977 war with Ethiopia, the late president of Somalia, Mohamed Siyad Barre, in a compelling evidence of his travesty of justice and ultimate hypocrisy, claimed that he is only seeking freedom and justice for those under foreign rule while simultaneously denying the very same rights from those already under his jurisdiction in the northern region.
One man’s brute policies and pursuit of power and morbid addiction to holding onto it by whichever way convenient eventually led Somalia to disintegrate. Out of a sheer desire and commitment to build a clan dynasty replicated from a similar undertaking by a legendary kin in the past, Mohamed Siyad Barre's regime belligerently flirted with ill-at-ease fraternal relations and balance of power between major ethnic clans. He insidiously tilted the scale in favor of one group over the other and forever contaminated the faith in brotherhood and peaceful co-existence. Resorting to sectarian politics to perpetuate pernicious social and personal injustices out of a blind obsession to force others under the ironclad dominance of his clan, the President pitted clans against one another and fomented bitter tribal hostilities and animosities where none existed before. His divisive politics, merely designed to serve parochial and clannish interests, has capriciously sowed the first deadly seeds of a harrowing hatred and protracted civil war. From a general human prospective, there is nothing more toxic of a notion than a government callously preying on its own people, slaughtering and maiming its own subjects. it is a sickening state of affair where both kinsmen and country are gutted in flames and where inter-clan hostilities degenerated brotherly spirit beyond repair.
Surely, not many outsiders could ever fathom the North’s build-up rage toward the south. It is a searing rage that eroded and strained the structural foundation of a lopsided trust between two regions whose people share homogenous values of culture, religion, and language. Instead of addressing their legitimate grievances, The regime in Mogadishu choose a combative approach to forever silence them through repressive measures of genocidal proportion. They ransacked their sanctuaries and ruined their lives. In his anti-north crusade, Barre accused them of blatant disloyalty and national subversion to overthrow his totalitarian regime. Massive terror campaigns were cowardly waged to deliver collective punishment against innocent population to intimidate them into submission. In an act of retribution, daily sorts of indiscriminate bombardments of major urban cities and virtual annihilation of its civilian population were decreed. hospitals and mosques were not spared of wanton destructions that caused monumental damage both in human and material terms. millions of deadly mines were laid in and around cities just to impede residents from fleeing to safety. claiming one amputee victim out of every 650 people, northern Somalia, currently Somaliland, ranked third behind Cambodia and Angola in mine casualties. crippling military operations of this nature and magnitude clearly epitomized actions of final betrayal. Even this abhorrent tactic failed to yield any desirable results. Certainly, The single most galvanizing issue that strongly united Somalilanders of all stripes and availed them with a set of purpose to fight for was the regime’s repulsive intentions and actions to squeeze them out and carve them off. If it were not for their traditional resilience and versatility that came to the rescue and kept them afloat, they could have all perished.
A permeable violence instigated by a rogue regime soon spiraled out of control and forced the nation descend into a national crisis of abysmal proportion. Since the collapse of Barre's regime and the subsequent partying ways with the union by the north, hell has broken loose. People at large felt alienated from their own government, wielding no influence or access to register their frustrations. As sullen resentment and disappointment surged high, cynicism bred zealous rebellion in the north. Armed provocations, usually, bring about armed resistances. Ethnic cleansing of Somalilanders (as the northerners are commonly referred to) infuriated many in the north and prompted a fervent mobilization of grass-root support for a unilateral decision to withdraw from the union with the south. A rising death toll coupled with a feeling of being selectively persecuted for their inherent democratic values spawned the birth of a Somali National Movement to rout out perpetrators and extricate the north from an unworthy union. one has to be severely myopic not to see this coming. Ironically, the systematic persecution intended to break their will inadvertently catalyzed a valiant effort not to let a rogue regime get its way.
The well-documented heinous atrocities perpetuated in the north precipitated the death warrant of a nationally aspired goal - that of "Greater Somalia". Once a rallying cry and a unifying dream yeaned for by most Somalis across boundaries, the pursuit of "Greater Somalia" suddenly lost its magic appeal and became anathema to many Somalilanders. Somali irredentism turned to be a permanent casualty of the domestic war waged in the North. Apparently convinced that their living conditions have worsened for their lot since the unification with the south, most Somalilanders favored a drive to bail out of the union and inoculate themselves against any further abuse. Worse yet, alarmed by the harsh treatment allotted to their neighbors and equally determined not to appease aggressors, the Republic of Djibouti, one of the missing territories under French rule then, opted to go separate way rather joining the union when time came to declare its independence from the French rule in 1977. This delivered a fatal blow to an ever elusive goal of incorporating all Somali-inhabited territories under one political system.
The guileful southerners often schemed to disown northerners and never intended to share power as partners. Sadly, the feeling isn't mutual. despite their commendably pioneering national contributions and sacrifice in both pre-and-post independence, many in the south still harbor ill-conceived suspicion and envy toward their northern brothers for being more irredentist, entrepreneur, educated, and above all un-Italian in their mode of thinking to be trusted or shared power with. Northerners, on the other hand, generally altruistic by nature, seemed more generously patriotic to possess both a burning desire and a caring vision to see all the Somalis united under one rule or regime. Unfortunately, their chronic naivety and complacency doesn't square well with a region whose people traditionally groomed ruthless tyrants and inept politicians of the likes of Mohamed Siyad Barre for national leadership. Endowed with no other intrinsic values to inspire, much less lead, they tend to manipulate festering tribal disputes or promote one to quench their insatiable thirst for quick fame or fortune. the fact that inter-tribal hostilities and skirmishes intensified during their reign is an absolute indictment against the kind of leadership they offer.
A tenuous argument advanced by unrepentant majority that there never existed an army of southerners determined to destroy the north wouldn't stand a test. The unwavering loyalty and unflinching tribal mandate that accorded a brutal tyrant to wage war on the innocent doomed any quick solution to the conflict. It hardened the opposition’s continued resolve to stay the course of defying an evil entity. However despicable the motives or brutal the methods, there comes a time where the price to be paid is rather inconsequential as one serenely resigns on refusing to be a second-class citizen in his own homeland. Resisting and dying with dignity is rather more honorable than being cowed into subservient class to a clan regime. Without explicit approval and support from his southern constituents or collaboration from his troops of mostly conscripts commanded by clan ruffians, Barre, a delusional and paranoid character with a skewed sense of justice, would hardly been able to marshal any resource to embark on a genocidal mission. As much as his inimical actions contravened national interest and cohesion, many southern brothers have remained indifferent to the abject suffering of Somalilanders. They sought refuge in wholesale silence and abrogated their moral responsibilities to voice their indignation to the genocidal campaign waged by a deranged man bent to burn and bury. Their overt support for such odious clansman exhibits their cavalier attitude about the slaughter and does elicit no surprise from innocent victims in the north.
Miraculously surviving from a marathon campaign of terror and tyranny is hard not to dwell on. Those amoral critics in the south who advocate impeaching northerners for freeing themselves from the yokes of the south are evidently the same sycophants who pathetically adhered to "see no evil" position even at a time when atrocities were drawing worldwide attention. Rather faulting and berating innocent victims, the southerners ought to profusely repent and redeem their souls, both in attitude and tangible deed. They must amend the destructive vice behavior that forced Somalia to disintegrate and die a slow death. With audacious determination by overwhelming majority, the breakaway Republic passionately captures the hearts and minds of all Somalilanders and not much debate leeway is allowed on the issue of the secession. I suppose three decades of premeditated neglect and disfranchisement has depleted all wells of patience or goodwill reservoir between the two regions.
If a serious attempt is to be made to single out the greatest challenge confronting third world leadership today, a point that hurls to mind is the daunting task to find a way to reconcile national and tribal interests, integrating them as one and the same. Unless a sustainable equilibrium is found between these two widely divergent interests, a recurring civil wars are inevitable. This dilemma certainly poses one of the most vexing challenges of our time.
In light of the above stated incompatibility, Somalia's current crisis is certain to force them into an intense soul-searching and self-evaluation to reflect on what went wrong or why. However, if a healing dialogue between estranged brothers on anything short of the secession is indispensable, I assume the responsibility to initiate one in the form of apology and compensation befit the south, the berth place of the perpetrators. Their irredentist ambitions shattered and not much into the game of settling scores, most Somalilanders are simply adamant in forever bidding farewell to the union. They urge their rookie Republic in the north to keep the momentum in continually drifting away until a save distance from harm's way is reached. In their strive and struggle to regain their dignity, lost freedom, and infringed rights and take back the control of their destiny, Somalilanders staunchly remain apostate toward the union, vowing to never again succumb to the same mistake of surrendering their cherished independence out of a blind trust. They seek approval or acceptance from no one and only ask to be left alone in peace. The amazing sincerity and equanimity they articulate their case fail to register any understanding. Nonetheless, they feel incumbent upon them to chart their future as they see it fit, no matter how profound an implication or precedent it resonates, both regionally or globally.
May 18th, 2006